Energy-Efficient Lighting: A Guide to Saving Energy, Money and the Environment

Adam Borut
Co-founder and president of Eco Hatchery
Eco Hatchery, LLC
Los Angeles, CA 90064

If you had an investment opportunity with a guaranteed rate of return of over 2000 percent, would you do it? The opportunity exists for most American households, yet few have taken full advantage of it.

Energy-efficient lighting is the fastest low-cost way to save energy, but most households have replaced only a limited number of incandescent bulbs with higher efficiency models. The average American household, for example, can annually save over $110 on energy and cut CO2 emissions by 1,400 lbs simply by replacing their most frequently used incandescent bulbs.

There are a range of different energy-efficient bulb technologies now available for the home.

  • Halogen Incandescent: Similar to traditional incandescent, these bulbs are 25% to 30% more efficient.
  • Compact Fluorescent (CFL): CFLs are over 70% more efficient and last 8 to 15 times longer. CFLs are phosphor-coated glass tubes filled with an inert gas. An electronic ballast in the base of the bulb activates the gas inside causing it to glow. CFLs now come in virtually every bulb style as incandescents. Some are available for 3-Way and dimmablea applications.
  • Light Emitting Diodes (LED): LEDs are over 75% more efficient and last as much as 25 times longer. LEDs use a semiconductor as their light source, and are currently one of the most energy-efficient and quickly developing types of bulbs. The cost of LEDs is still relatively high but falling rapidly.

The chart below illustrates the comparative costs of equivalent bulbs that are used three hours per day. While CFLs cost more on the store shelf than incandescent bulbs, they use over 70 percent less energy, saving consumers a considerable amount of money over the lifetime of the bulb. (LEDs are not included in the chart, as 100 watt equivalent LEDs are not yet available).

So why haven’t more households made the switch?

Finding the energy-efficient bulb with the right fit, light quality and appearance can be confusing and time consuming. Lighting used to be a low involvement purchase. The incandescent bulb has remained virtually unchanged since Edison first invented it, and now consumers are being presented with a wide range of alternative solutions. CFLs have come a long way over the past 20 years. LEDs are rapidly improving in quality and price.

Here are some quick tips for finding the right energy-efficient bulbs for your home:

  • Fit: Not all CFLs and LEDs work in all fixtures. Check that the bulb you are considering is recommended for use in your fixture. CFLs come in all standard incandescent shapes and sizes. You don’t need to compromise appearance to save.
  • Color Temperature: For a soft white light that mimics the light of a traditional incandescent, look for bulbs with a color temperature of 2700 k (Kelvin).
  • Lumens: Lumens measure brightness, whereas watts measure energy use. All bulb packaging will indicate the incandescent equivalent.
  • Quality: Not all CFLs and LEDs are made the same. Quality matters. It is worth investing in a premium bulb to get the light quality you expect and to ensure the bulb lasts as long as advertised.
  • Incentives: Check your energy company’s website for CFL discount offers and rebates.
  • Recycling: CFLs contain a small amount of mercury (<5mg), and should be disposed of properly. If a CFL breaks, clean up according to the instructions. Even if you inhale all of the mercury that escapes from a broken bulb, you will be exposed to less mercury than is contained in 2 pounds of swordfish.

Figure 2. Screenshots of turf app inputs.

A Simple Solution: The Light Bulb Finder app

To help American consumers transition to energy- efficient lighting and navigate the many lighting choices available in the market, app developer Eco Hatchery created the Light Bulb Finder mobile app for iOS and Android devices. The app is designed to cut through the confusion and help consumers make informed decisions about which energy-efficient bulbs are right for their home and budget.

Walking around the home, users input basic information about their current incandescent fixtures into the app. Light Bulb Finder provides instant recommendations for energy-saving bulbs, including financial payback and environmental impact. Users can create a personal shopping list of energy-efficient bulbs for their next store visit or buy bulbs directly through the app.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency named Light Bulb Finder “Best Overall App” in its Apps for the Environment Challenge

Currently, the Light Bulb Finder app is available only in the U.S. market. The app often is included the mix of tools that cities, utilities and retailers offer residents to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, save energy and cut household utility bills. Eco Hatchery creates customized mobile marketing campaigns for the municipal and utility clients to promote local bulb rebates and incentives through the app.

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